19 Lessons From Peter Shankman – Blog World LA Keynote

Motivation & Inspiration

I saw Peter Shankman speak live for the first time during Blog World LA (where he delivered one of the keynote presentations). He’s a very entertaining presenter and he also has a ton of wisdom to share. What follows are the 19 lessons I took away from Peter’s presentation. This does not track exactly with the list he used in the presentation – I’ve added a few of his sub-points as individual lessons.

Some background:

His first success story was to capitalize on the movie “Titanic”. He printed t-shirts that said, “It sank. Get over it”. He thought he’d sell a few, but he was able to sell 500 shirts in 6 hours hawking them in Times Square. The press got hold of the story and suddenly his website and phone were flooded with requests to buy the shirts. To capitalize on the demand, he quickly built a self-described, “Rube Goldberg fulfillment house” to be able to take orders and ship them out. This first venture was success, but he learned a very important lesson. Had he not acted quickly to take advantage of the demand, he suspects that hordes of copycats would have copied his product and taken the lion’s share of the business.

He’s had several, much bigger successes since “It Sank”. Most recently he founded HARO (helpareporter.com) which was sold to Vocus for an undisclosed sum.

19 Lessons From Peter Shankman

Here are 19 lessons for people trying to make their mark in the business world. If you’re easily offended, be warned. There’s a bit of “colorful language” on its way…

1) It’s About Revenues

Your only job is to generate revenue. C-level people (CEOs, CFOs, etc.) don’t care about brand and buzz. Cool does not trump revenue! If your actions are not generating revenue, you’re doing it wrong.

2) Try Things

Everything we do online is like using a giant Etch-A-Sketch. Try things and if it works, keep doing it. If not, stop doing it.

3) Have A Success Plan

When people urge you to have a back-up plan for when you fail, that means “You Suck”. Peter has a better idea – have a back-up plan for when you succeed. Be ready for when the world focuses on you!

“There’s nothing worse than success that you can’t keep.”

Example: When Peter was training for the Iron Man, his girlfriend wasn’t too happy about his boring life of going to bed at 7pm and waking up at 4am to train. So, for fun, he made a video about the situation. He wasn’t prepared when Lance Armstrong tweeted about it and it suddenly got 45,000 views in one day. Of course, he hadn’t put any links back to his site or provided any information about how to find him. Don’t waste opportunities like this! Be prepared for when you have success so you can take advantage of the opportunity.

(Warning! This video below contains foul language – definitely not safe for work)

4) Your Customers Are In Control

You don’t control the direction of your company, you are controlled by your customers. To be successful, you need to listen to your audience.

Example: Peter was the founder of Airtroductions, a business networking company. The service allowed people to pick seat-mates on flights in order to network for business. One day, they were contacted by Lisa Loeb’s representatives. She was going to use Airtroductions to meet guys on a flight for an episode of a reality TV show. They got a ton of new users who wanted to meet Lisa Loeb and they also got a lot of great PR. Suddenly the company was a dating service and no longer a business networking service!

5) Be transparent

Ask your audience. Tell them what you are doing. When you screw up (and you will) it will be bigger than you can imagine! You’ll be better off if you own it, fix it and move on!

Example: Compare Elliot Spitzer, who admitted his mistakes, to Andrew Weiner, the previous heir apparent to the Mayorship of New York. When caught up in a scandal, Weiner blamed everyone but himself (including hackers!). Weiner didn’t take responsibility and people hate him for that. Peter predicts that Spitzer will be back in politics.

6) Be Relevant

Be relevant to your audience. If you care about them, they’ll stick around. They’ll market for you, stick up for you when you screw up, and tell you what to do.

“An audience is a privilege, not a right. Just like spandex!”

7) Embrace Brevity

During the rise of the MTV generation, parents decried the 3 minute attention span of kids. The attention span has now become just seconds. Perfect for 140 characters. Learn to be brief!

8) Embrace Concepts, Not Brands

He loves Twitter, but “it’s just a tool”. Only 6-7% of people have sent a Tweet before! Twitter doesn’t have massive adoption like texting. Many people text all the time – especially internationally where voice charges are high.

People fell in love with Pets.com (with its famous sock puppet) and it got tens of millions in investor money. As for Groupon:

“Fuck Groupon and it’s $11B valuation! If you believe that, you deserve to lose your money!”

9) Learn To Write

Peter received a resume from a Harvard grad recently with major grammar issues. Needless to say she was not hired. Good writing is an important skill. See Peter’s grammar lessons to the right.

10) Be “Top of Mind”

Look at how Barry Diller turned around Paramount. He called 10 employees per day and just talked with them. This helped keep him top of mind. Get out of your own head – talk about them.

Some advice: Pick 10 people in Facebook you haven’t talked to in 6 months. Start a conversation, post on their page or unfriend them!

11) Eat Your Fear

Learn to get out of your comfort zone. Eat your fear – it sustains you.

“If you want something you haven’t had before, you have to do something you haven’t done before.”

12) Don’t Bitch (In Public)

Life is a bunch of good days surrounded by shitty days. People love to bitch – we don’t need to know about it! When you’re upset, put down your devices.

13) Differentiate Yourself

Find ways to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

14) Recognize The New PR

People care how great you are if other people tell them. Do something you’re good at so well that people tell other people about you.

15) Got Haters?

If you don’t have haters then you’re not doing enough to change the status quo!

16) Don’t Give Up!

The intersection of suffering and strength is not giving up!

17) There’s No Security Setting For Stupid

Be aware of what you do in public. Your reputation is all you’ve got.

18) Shoot Everything

….with a camera. You never know what’s going to be the next big thing. Bring your camera (or phone) and take pictures of everything.

Peter Shankman's business card19) Have Fun!

Enjoy yourself. As for Peter enjoying himself, he’s a globe-trotting entrepreneur with a poker chip (with a picture of him sky-diving) as a business card. He’s definitely enjoying the ride. As a side note, he proposed to his girlfriend in July, and plans to marry in December.

I hope you take away some valuable lessons that you can use in your career.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


See my other Blog World LA Posts